18 April, 2024

Discovering the Good in the Bad

by | 28 August, 2023 | 1 comment

By Eleanor Daniel

G. K. Chesterton wrote a series of short stories featuring Father Brown, a little priest with amazing discernment and wisdom. He solves crimes and other puzzling situations easily. He dispenses wisdom freely. These are fascinating stories.

In “Father Brown’s Secret,” the cleric explains how he solves the mysteries that regularly come his way. The priest says he imagines himself as the perpetrator of the crime—and that reveals the solution. When someone in the story objected that he could not carry out such evil, the priest observes that no man can know how good he can be until he understands how bad he is.

What a profound insight! We like to imagine ourselves as upright and competent. We know, of course, that we have faults. We understand that we aren’t perfect. We may find it prudent to confess we have sinned. But deep down we too often see ourselves as “pretty good people.” And our imaginations get in the way of a real encounter with God. Until we know how sinful we are in God’s eyes, we will never be able to be as good as God wants us to be.

The Lord’s Supper is a built-in reminder. To approach this table and leave with spiritual health and vitality, we must encounter the reality of sin. It was sin—our sin—that offended God. It was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. It was our sin that demanded a sacrifice to atone for it. Coming to this table is a stark reminder of how sinful we really are.

But this table also reminds us of how valuable we are and what we can be because of Jesus Christ. We are reminded of the truth of Romans 8:37-39:

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Come. Acknowledge how sinful you are. And be reminded again of how good you can be through Christ Jesus our Lord.

This Communion meditation by Eleanor Daniel originally appeared in Christian Standard on Aug. 7, 2011. The author information at the bottom identified Daniel as the Dorothy Keister Walker Professor of Christian Education Emeritus at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in Johnson City, Tenn. For her obituary a few years later, we noted that Daniel, in fact, served as academic dean of three seminaries. She died March 2, 2017, at age 77.

1 Comment

  1. Jeff

    Jesus never came upon a group of bad people and some good people. He met proud people and humble people, and He always richly blessed the humble. The proud went away saddened, angered, or humiliated.

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